Western Conference finals
Game 5 (Kings lead series, 3-1)
Kings vs. Phoenix Coyotes at Jobing.com Arena, 6 p.m. PT
Five storylines to track:
1. Repeat performance: The Kings have been down this road before. One month ago today, to be exact. They missed out on a chance to sweep the Canucks in the opening round by losing Game 4 at home, then returned to Vancouver on April 22 and finished the job in Game 5. Obviously, the Kings don’t want this series to extend any further than it already has. With the New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils tied up, 2-2, in their Eastern Conference final, a victory tonight would also guarantee the Kings a few days off before the start of the Stanley Cup final.
2. Road warriors: The Kings are 7-0 on the road in these playoffs and have won nine straight playoff games away from Staples Center overall. There’s no real secret to their success, other than a little team bonding that goes with being on the road, away from all the distractions of home life. Another win tonight and the Kings will break the NHL record for the most consecutive road victories in the playoffs. Of course, that will just be a side note if the Kings are victorious. Advancing to their second Stanley Cup final in franchise history will certainly steal the headlines.
3. Power up: The power play has been a sore spot all season for the Kings, but the playoffs have been especially painful. The Kings are 6 for 70 with the man advantage in this postseason, an efficiency rate that’s about half of what it was in the regular season. During the off day Monday, some of the Kings talked about getting shots off quicker so the Coyotes won't have time to move into shooting lanes and block shots. Phoenix blocked 12 in Game 4, half of those on the power play.
4. Shooting gallery: In addition to the 12 blocks, the Kings had 36 shots on goal in Game 4 and another 28 that were off target. That’s a heavy volume of rubber thrown toward the Phoenix net, and a trend that needs to be continued if the Kings hope to wrap up this series. Coyotes goalkeeper Mike Smith is a lot like Jonathan Quick of the Kings. The more shots he faces, the better he seems to get. Kings captain Dustin Brown spent a good part of Monday’s optional practice working on tip shots in front of the net. It might take a deflection or two to get one past Smith in Game 5.
5. Coyote comebacks: The Coyotes were boosted by the return of Martin Hanzal and Adrian Aucoin in Game 4, though their numbers were hardly spectacular. Hanzal, who was suspended for Game 3 after his boarding penalty on Brown in Game 2, did not record a shot in 11 minutes 29 seconds of ice time. Aucoin, who made his series debut after getting injured in the previous series against the Nashville Predators, had one shot on goal in 12:19 and was sent to the penalty box for hooking late in the first period. Aucoin is still dealing with the undisclosed injury and will be a game-time decision tonight, coach Dave Tippett said after the morning skate Tuesday.